Nairobi, December 15, 2014 (SSNA) — It is one year since South Sudan was thrown into chaos and a deep national crisis. As we remember the shameful/gruesome and tragic events that befell our country on 15 December, 2013 and during the days, weeks, months and now one year that have passed since then, we the SPLM Leaders (Former Political Detainees), with heavy heart, remember the victims of what can surely be characterized as genocide, and wish to salute all South Sudanese wherever they are. We believe it is important to mark this day one year on (December 15, 2014) to honour the memory of our departed sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, friends and relatives who were killed because they belonged to a certain tribe or ethnic group;. It (it) is important to mark this day so that we can do soul-reaching and recommit and redouble our efforts to achieve durable and sustainable peace in our country in the shortest possible time. As our people remember this sad day, it is important for us to mark this day with great resolve and commitment that our country must never and never again allow this despicable and heinous crime against humanity to repeat itself in our motherland.
Causes of Crisis:
It is now an undisputed fact and common knowledge that differences within the SPLM, absence of collective leadership and loss of direction and vision in the top leadership organs lay at the root of the crisis that erupted on 15th December, 2013. Violence came into play in order to stifle political debate on reforms and democratization in the Party and the State. A ‘failed coup attempt’ was therefore fabricated to justify the introduction of violence into an otherwise healthy political debate.
It is to be recalled that on 6th December, 2013, we, together with many other senior comrades, had sounded warnings and concerns about the infiltration of the SPLM by opportunists and agents of foreign countries; about the institutionalization of negative influences of regional and ethnic lobbies in decision making as it relates to affairs of the State, about the formation of private armies (militia),in flagrant violation of the constitution and abuse of powers of the Office of the President, promoting corruption and protecting the corrupt while paying lip service to the fight against corruption and encouraging the culture of impunity. We warned that these worrying trends in the government were indicative of looming disaster.
Effects of the conflict:
While detailed data on effects of the conflict since December, 2013 remains to be established, it is not disputed that tens of thousands of lives have been lost and other massive human rights violations and abuses have been committed in violation of international humanitarian law. These crimes include massacres, ethnically targeted killings and disappearances, rape, recruitment of child-soldiers, arbitrary arrests and detention, destruction of property and violence aimed at spreading terror among the civilian population.
The conflict has caused massive displacement of over a million citizens internally and to the neighbouring countries, ruined the economy, adversely affected the delivery of basic services to our people, destroyed property and interrupted agricultural production creating a looming disaster and food crisis.
As stated above, the conflict arose as a result of differences within the Party (the SPLM) and was not tribal in nature. However, there is no mistaking the fact that increasingly this conflict is assuming tribal and ethnic dimensions. The war has now effectively polarized the country ethnically behind the two warring parties. The longer this conflict continues, the more tribal it may become; not discounting the possibility of it spreading to other regions and tribes.
The inability to reach peace and stop the killing is leaving the region and the international community with no better option but to impose peace on the warring parties. This may be the only salvation for South Sudan from collapsing into chaos and disorder in view of the un-abating brutal conflict that has gripped the country for one year thus far.
Efforts to Resolve the Conflict:
Since December 2013, soon after the conflict erupted in our country, the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has exerted strenuous efforts to help find a solution to the crisis and restore peace to South Sudan. It has held six extra-ordinary Summits on the South Sudan crisis within this space of one year.
Through IGAD mediation, the stakeholders have agreed to the formation of an inclusive Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) and a Transitional Period of two and a half years. The two warring parties have also signed a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoH) including its implementation matrix but have consistently failed to honour it. What remains outstanding for a final peace agreement to be achieved is the structure of Government and details of reforms to be undertaken by the proposed Transitional Government of National Unity in the areas of security, economy and institutional reforms.
In the upcoming session of the mediation process in Addis Ababa, which is expected to be the final lap of the IGAD mediation, the warring parties are expected to present the outcome of their consultations on the structure of government. Specifically, the point in issue is whether to have a Vice President and two deputies to the Prime Minister or simply have a President and a Prime Minister. If it is agreed that the Prime Minister is to share executive powers with the President, then the matter for resolution as between the position of Vice President and the Prime Minister, would simply be a matter of protocol. This in our view should not be an obstacle to peace.
We have also noted that despite the commitment of the two warring parties to the importance of participation of the other stakeholders in the Transitional government of National Unity, the position of the SPLM/A (IO) continues to be ambivalent on the participation of the SPLM Political Leaders (FPD) and the other Political Parties in the top positions of the TGoNU. Whereas the SPLM/A (IO) wants to de-concentrate powers from the hands of the President, the same SPLM/A (IO) would like to concentrate powers in the hands of its would- be nominee Prime Minister. This is the reason why it vehemently objects to the creation of the positions of two Deputies to the Prime Minister. We hope the SPLM/A (IO) will reconsider their position on this matter.
Other Issues of Concern:
The IGAD mediated peace process since its inception in December 2013, recognized the need for the participation of all the South Sudanese stakeholders in order to achieve an inclusive and sustainable peace owned by all people of South Sudan. As South Sudan is a multi-party system, the role of political parties in the search for peace cannot be undermined. In this juncture, the exclusion of the representatives of the other political parties in the peace process is unfortunate. In our view, the political parties should have been allowed by the government to select their representatives through a transparent and democratic process without manipulation or undue interference which is evident from the way some representatives of the political parties are denied travel outside South Sudan.
The Talked-about National Elections:
The Government of South Sudan has instructed the National Elections Commission to prepare for the conduct of elections before July 2015 so as to renew the mandate of the President before his term ends in 2015. The purpose is to renew legitimacy of the President and his government.
However, given the current state of affairs in the country, it is not feasible to hold free and fair elections while the war rages on. The national priority now should first be to end the war, reconcile and heal the nation, reform the state and promulgate a permanent democratic constitution that reflects the will and aspirations of the people.
The states of Unity, Lakes, Upper Nile, and Jonglei are currently under a state of emergency due to war and serious insecurity, in the case of Lakes state. Even for Northern Bahr al Ghazal state the situation is not also conducive for elections. The National Elections Commission has already confirmed that gubernatorial elections were impossible to be held in Unity, Lakes, Jonglei and Northern Bahr al Ghazal due to insecurity. That is why the Care-taker Governors in these states have remained in position despite the constitutional requirement that new elections should be held within 60 (sixty) days for the new Governors. This alone, besides the other political considerations, does not make the holding of general elections in the country a practical proposition.
More importantly, the states mentioned above command a combined population of four million three hundred and twenty-five thousand one hundred and ninety four (4,325,194) people according to the last Population Census. This is out of a total population of eight million two hundred and fifty eight thousand four hundred and ninety (8,258,490) for the whole country. Therefore, more than half of the population of the country cannot be disenfranchised and nothing can bestow legitimacy on any purported elections in the country that excludes them.
Moreover, there could be legal impediments that may not allow the running of general elections in the near future that relate to some requirements in the Political Parties Act, 2012. Also, this is not to mention the massive displacement of people internally and to the neighbouring countries; and who are struggling to survive under difficult conditions. Their priority is certainly not to engage in elections leave alone electing the same leaders who are responsible for their misery!
The National Security Bill:
A lot have been said by many people including the UN and International Human Rights Organizations in rejection of the infamous National Security Bill which the President has declined to sign into law because the Bill is grossly unconstitutional and due to public outcry. The Bill contradicts and offends the Bill of Rights in the Transitional Constitution and the stipulated mandate of the National Security Service in the same Constitution. South Sudan does not need such a draconian piece of legislation. The aspirations of our people are for a democratic dispensation based on the rule of law, constitutionalism and respect for fundamental human rights. Any attempts to use the law to perpetuate oppression and promote authoritarianism must be rejected stock log and barrel by all freedom loving people of our country. We are totally opposed to such oppressive legislations.
The Way Forward:
We call for immediate ending of the war to end the suffering of our people and preserve our sovereignty and independence. Specifically, we take this opportunity to make the following call:
- Call on the two warring parties to rise up to their national responsibilities to end the conflict before the year-end;
- Call on our people inside the country and in Diaspora to unify their ranks and intensify their voice for peace;
- Urge IGAD and AU to stand firm and use the coming session of IGAD mediation as the final opportunity for achieving peace in South Sudan and to apply appropriate leverage to that end;
- Call on the international community to continue supporting the IGAD initiative for restoring peace to South Sudan;
- Urge the Government of South Sudan to allow representatives of other Political Parties who have been part of the IGAD peace process to participate in the coming sessions of the Peace Talks as critical stakeholders in the search for comprehensive and durable peace in our country;
- Call upon our religious leaders to continue to work and pray for peace and justice in our country; to promote unity, reconciliation and healing in our society which is deeply divided by war, sectarianism and hatred;
- Appeal to the UN and other international organizations to increase humanitarian assistance to the victims of war and other people in need in South Sudan.